Author Archives: ervann

Healthy Lifestyle

Poll by Scrawl staff (only 50% voted) on their preferred sport / exercise activity on each Thursday, starting…today!


Ciao 2010

In a year that some might say wasn’t the best for the Singapore animation industry (and there are reasons that shall be left for another post), we have to be thankful that the studio has been kept busy and was able to throw a Christmas party in joyous spirits, and most of us were able to take a few days’ break to recharge. I’m not sure there are easy days for anyone in the business of animation these days. You’re either scrambling for projects or financing for them (often both), and even after the projects come in the headaches have just begun as a massive 12-18 month operation beckons. It’s also a business that hardens you with disappointments, be it a project that falls through, or one that never seems able to take off. Yet, we soldier on, as perseverance is worth dusts of gold in this game. There are no overnight success in this business, and every once of experience and dexterity the studio has acquired over the last 8 years have provided the solid basis for sustainability. Eventually, projects do come in, and perhaps this year we might even see one or two originals get off the ground. Uncertainty breeds opportunities and vice versa. The ride’s been bumpy but we’ve covered good distance so far, and even managed to bring a few more people onboard. Who knows what 2011 might bring in this ongoing voyage?

 


ATF 2010

The Asia Television Forum is the last ‘major’ international content market of the year.  It feels like an after party of MIPCOM, which was just under two months ago.

Taking up two halls of the Suntec Convention Centre, it’s not a big footprint in terms real estate, and quite frankly the traffic’s been pretty low for the last two years. I can’t imagine the statistic increasing this year, once the organiser releases the attendee numbers (even though I wouldn’t be surprised if somehow they did ‘go up’). I’ve been at the last seven ATFs, and this is certainly the quietest one I’ve seen.

Being held in Singapore, naturally we try to have some sort of a presence. This means taking up a ‘stall space’ under the Singapore Pavilion. It’s a nice setup this year, although for all practical purposes, not very conducive for meetings. We felt like salesmen at a cosmetic booth most of the time.

ATF is largely recognised as an ‘Asia-centric’ market, where buyers tend to come from the region, but there is still a fair amount of international presence. I suppose there are worse places to visit than Singapore for a last business trip of the year.

The generally lighter traffic means we tend to have fewer meetings than the usual overseas markets. Or maybe because it’s held on ‘home ground’, we take it a little easier, and really just try to meet the key people and spend more time talking instead of having back-to-back 30-minute ‘speed dating’ sessions.

Personally, I find ATF is one too many market for the year. With the traffic being so light, it only serves to strengthen that belief. Either the organiser seriously look at a revamp or ways to bring in the buyers and exhibitors, it’s hard to see numbers improving as long the economy continues to tread water.

There are larger macro-factors involved as well, with Asia being such a fragmented market and license fees looking like pocket change that one hopes adds up to something decent. As such some may feel ATF isn’t worth attending, since most of the buyers do show up at the MIPs anyway.

At the same time, every dollar of license fee counts in this business these days, so a sale is still a sale – even if it’s one that puts just a touch of icing on another tough year in this wonderful, frustrating, dysfunctional and bizarre industry that is TV production.

See you at ATF 2011 I guess.


Monsoon Season

View from office

December sneaked in like a silent kitten, but here in Singapore, the unmistakable sign that the year end is fast approaching is undoubtedly the thunderstorms that pelt the island almost each afternoon, courtesy of the Northeast Monsoon.

Now, it rains pretty much all year round in Singapore so we’re generally an umbrella-friendly bunch . But monsoon rain is something else. If the perennial afternoon rain we get is a pick-up truck, then monsoon rain is a 10-ton wrecker.

Indeed, we often experience our version of the 4 seasons in a single day – warm mornings, scorching mid-days, cool and windy afternoons as the clouds gather, and cold evenings after a few hours of unrelenting downpour. To qualify, ‘cold’ here really hovers around 24-26 degree Celsius.

A few weeks ago, Lisa Henson from the Jim Henson Company dropped in for a visit. After lunch we drove her to her next appointment, and the sky opened up and poured like it’s from a bucket. It’s not easy driving in one of these downpours I can tell you. Visibility is pretty much limited to 10-15 metres ahead, the rain pelts the car and windscreen like it’s trying to beat you into submission, and add to all that the general pandemonium that’s happening outside – flooded roads, roaring winds, flashes of lights from vehicles that you can’t quite tell if they’re 10 or 50 metres ahead…anyway, you get the idea.

It was apparent that Lisa’s never been in weather like that. She was visibly a mix of excitement, awe, and probably genuine concern – that her life could well be in the hands of a driver who kept looking back at her reaction to the weather through the rear view mirror instead of looking at the road ahead. Meantime the other two gentlemen in the car – Choon Meng and Chi Kong – just joked away like two kids experiencing an automatic car wash for the first time.

I’m glad to report that we got Lisa safely to her destination, and she’s even be on the email since. The ordeal appears over for Ms Henson.

Let’s see how the weather holds up for next week’s Asia TV Forum. Could have a few surprises in store for some unsuspecting overseas guests not used to torrential downpours.


Happy Halloween

That’s not a mask of Bella. It’s actually her.


Pink!

Apparently there was a PINK day in the studio recently. Need to work on our internal communications, guys… Or maybe no one wanted to see me in pink (which would be understandable).


MIPCOM Pt.4

It’s a funny feeling in the stomach when talking about food in Cannes. Let’s get this straight – food here, for the most part, is always good if not fantastic. Walk into any self-respecting restaurants (complete with rude waiters), and chances are you’ll have a great meal – and a slightly charred wallet. A dinner could easily set you back 40-50 euros (with dessert and maybe a glass of wine, or a bottle of sparkling water), while a decent working lunch tend to hover around 25-30 euros at least. There are cheaper options that are not necessarily terrible, but still it’s a far, far cry from the S$5 lunch we are used to back home on a daily basis.

But it’s pointless to compare food prices here. Frankly I’d pay top dollar for some decent Chinese food in Cannes, and there really isn’t any. There’s maybe like, one restaurant that serves up some decent Chinese fare, but it’s nothing that’d blow the mind of a born and bred Singaporean Chinese brought up on old-school Tze Cha and authentic Hong Kong dim sum.

What you end up having for meals is mostly standard western fare, and the unavoidable pastas and pizzas. Again, they are usually very good, but still – it ain’t the same as home food. Too much gluten, I reckon.

What I do really appreciate are the morning breakfasts, sitting in a little cafe or on the street in the crisp morning air, chomping on sumptuous pastries and perfectly baked croissants, and washing it all down with freshly squeezed OJ and a satisfying cup of coffee that kicks you in for the day ahead. Breakfast is always my favourite part of the day here.

Many Asians I know at the market always bring along instant cup noodles. Some even have them as meals religiously, not being used to western food. I’ve never done that, only because I’ve stopped eating instant noodles for years (it’s poison, people!). When push comes to shove, there’s always the Golden Arches to fall back on. It’s still the quickest and cheapest ticket around for a meal, and you always know what you’re getting.

And it’s true what Vincent says in Pulp Fiction – the French dip their fries in mayonnaise instead of ketchup.


MIPCOM Pt.3

The thing about MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) or MOC (Memorandum of Cooperation) or LOI (Letter of Intent) signing ceremonies are that people usually show up more for the FAD (Food and Drinks).

Not unlike wedding ceremonies, but I might be a bit cynical there.

Most parties at MIPCOM (at least the ones thrown by the MDA) pretty much have one of these photo ops where deals are announced and smiles are flashed incessantly for the cameras, with the hope that some of those pictures make their way to the trade journals and market dailies the morning after (at least for the publicists’ sake).

These scenes are probably more prevalent at parties thrown by government organisations or funding bodies, given the obvious need to show that their funding and support are showing results in the form of multi-million dollar deals.

The food was pretty good this time, but I didn’t have any bites before the signing in the fear that any leftovers between my teeth could show up in the trade magazine pictures. My fear was totally unfounded, as there was apparently little coverage on the signings, much less any pictures. Well, at least the handful of readers of this blog can get a taste of what went on.

Truth is, the whole thing was quite uncomfortable for me – sitting there, signing ‘deals’ and smiling for the cameras, knowing full-well that you stand between a hundred-odd people and their free food and alcoholic beverages.

Besides, anyone in the industry knows that these photo ops are little more than a chance to get the company a few minutes under the spotlight, and the real work starts later on with sober heads working through financials, deal terms, budgets, schedules and production chaos before even a frame of animation is seen on screen a couple of years (or longer) down the road, and hopefully everyone sees a bit of profit before it’s all over.

But all that can wait when alcohol’s free flow…

 

 

 

 

 


MIPCOM 2010 Pt.2

Sunday was pretty rough, given that both Jeong and I had about an hour’s sleep the day before. And Monday morning started at 5am, thanks to the body clock.

It’s a funny feeling on day 1 at the market. You kinda know what to expect, but at the same time – not really. We set off this time with some specific goals in mind, and I think it gave the whole ‘mission’ a bit more focus. There’s the usual pitching and taking pitches of course, but we were looking for certain types of projects, and it drove our approach towards most meetings.

And MIPCOM is ALL about meetings. 20-30 minutes sessions, back-to-back mostly, with either lunch meetings or quick bites in between, from morning till evening and sometimes beyond. Jeong and I tried to cover for each other as needed, since it’s common that meetings overrun or overlap. After so many years, at least we know where the booths are, so running from one meeting to another, sometimes on different floors, usually takes between a couple of minutes at most.  It’s not physically that demanding, but mentally it really wears you down. Time flies though, and before long we’re walking out of the Palais with heavy steps, either heading back to the apartment to drop off out bags or to find some dinner.

In a funny way, attending these markets, often twice a year, gives you an indication of how old you’re getting. Sure, we’re still almost a couple of decades younger than a lot of the people zipping around the market grounds, but the days of hitting the lounges or bars for drinks and stumbling back to the apartment with a buzzing head are clearly over (well, not every night at least). These days, as it is back home, sometimes a nice, satisfying dinner with friends after a hard day’s work is the best tonic.

Day 2 beckons.


MIPCOM 2010 Pt.1

We came, we got stuck in London for a night because we missed our connection, we survived two of the reportedly worst airports in Europe in a day, we soldiered through 4 days of back-to-back meetings, and we made it home to tell the tale.

MIPCOM started early in October this year. Choon Meng was preoccupied with the slight matter of a second baby, hence it was left to me and Jeong to take this one – my 10th or 11th time in Cannes (I don’t really know for sure anymore).

When our flight from Changi took off almost 45 minutes late, I had a sneaky feeling it’s going to be a tricky transit. We were connecting through Heathrow in the evening, and eventually got in over an hour late. Our fears were founded when just before disembarking, our names were called out over the PA. We were to approach the ground staff, who subsequently told us with no pity at all that we had zero chance of catching our connecting flight to Nice.

So it was night at a airport hotel on a wet and chilly London night. We were more concerned about booking an early flight to Paris, and then on to Nice the next day, where we’ve got a pretty full schedule of meetings lined up already. Fortunately, we were able to make the bookings. Unfortunately, it meant 3 hours’ sleep as we had to be up at 4am to catch the first bus into Heathrow. We barely slept an hour. It didn’t help that the bathroom’s toilet flush didn’t work.

Scrambling to book the first flight into Paris and then Nice.

Waiting for fish and chips. What else we gonna have in London?

We got into Heathrow at 5.15am, seriously zonked out by now. Caught a flight to Paris, laboured through the meat market that is the Charles de Gaulle airport (voted worst in Europe), then on to Nice.

Premier Inn. Not so premier toilet flush.

4.45am bus into Heathrow after one hour’s sleep. Delightful.

Charles de Gaulle airport

Finally, we arrived in Cannes at 1pm, checked into our apartment, dropped off our bags, and off to our first meeting.

End of Day 1. Knackered.

Look out for Part 2.